SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea

Isolde Standish

BA(Ballarat); BA, PhD(London)
  • Overview
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Isolde Standish: Centre for Film Studies
Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea

Reader in Film and Media Studies, Department of Japan and Korea

Centre for Film Studies


SOAS Japan Research Centre (JRC)

Academic Staff, Japan Research Centre

Centre of Korean Studies

Academic Staff, Centre of Korean Studies

Dr Isolde Standish
Email address:
+44(0) 20 7898 4227
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
On Sabbatical:


As a graduate of (Hollywood and European) Film and Media Studies in 1984, I found myself seeking new directions, both academic and geographical, to launch my post-graduate studies. As chance would have it, I found a teaching post in Japan where I discovered a fascinating and often different way of representing the world through cinema. My curiosity then led me to Korea and, more recently, is taking me into World Cinema.


Courses Taught
PhD Students supervised
  • Irene Gonzalez Lopez , Prostitution in Postwar Japanese Cinema
  • Iris Haukamp, A Foreigner's Dream of Japan: The struggle over power and authenticity in a German-Japanese coproduction
  • Kerstin Fooken, Japanese Cinema in Times of profound socio-economic Change: The Image of the Modern Girl in the visual Culture of interwar Japan
  • Lawrence Carter, Going Global: Studio Ghibli, Anime and the Popularisation of a Global Genre
  • Lois Barnett, An Investigation of Audience Responses To and Motivations for the Use of Western-Inspired Costume in Japanese Cinema (1923-39)
  • Veluree Metaveevinij, (Re)constructing Thainess on screen: Government Policies towards Thai Cinema during 2001-2012
Past PhD students include:
  • Montre Aza Missouri Black Magic Women: Race, Sex and Afro-Religiosity in Narrative Film (Lecturer in Film Studies at Howard University, Washington);
  • Katsuyuki Hidaka Consuming the Past: Japanese Media at the beginning of the Twenty-First Century (Lecturer in Media Studies at Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto); and
  • Ozlem Guclu Silent Female Characters in the New Cinema of Turkey: Gender, Nation and the Past (Research Associate at Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul).


To date, my writing has centred on the history of Japanese Cinema and to a lesser extent, Korean Cinema. I have published three single-authored books along with various journal articles and chapters in edited books. My first book, Myth and Masculinity in the Japanese Cinema: Towards a Political Reading of the Tragic Hero (Routledge/Curzon 2000), drew on gender studies to explore the ‘homosocial’ codes that underpinned Japanese films from the war-retro and yakuza genres as a principal site of audience (mainly male) pleasure. This I then framed within the wider question of how film fixes history as popular memory.

My second book, A New History of Japanese Cinema: a Century of Narrative Film (Continuum 2005) took, as its starting point, the view that the auteur theory, around which much scholarship on Japanese Cinema has been framed, was inadequate to explain how Japanese cinema functioned within Japanese cultural life. In this study, I took an essayistic approach that focused on historical themes central to the economic and social transitions Japan underwent from pre-modern to a post-war industrial market economy – modernism, nationalism, humanism, transgression and censorship.

My third book, Politics, Porn and Protest: Japanese Avant-Garde Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s, also published by Continuum in June 2011, locates the Japanese avant-garde film movement of the 1960s and 1970s as a dissentient intellectual group of filmmakers who saw cinema as an instrument through which to challenge the conservatism of Japanese post-war politics driven by US imperial imperatives – the Japan/US Security Treaty, the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Reacting against realist film movements and adapting Sartrean-derived existentialism (via Sakaguchi Ango), in theoretical terms, they politicised the ‘body’ in what amounted to an assault on social morality, ultimately challenging the censorship laws. In terms of visual style, they problematised the nature of ‘time’ as linear, challenging mainstream conceptions of history as popular memory. Following on from my work on the Japanese avant-garde, I have begun work on my fourth single-authored monograph the title of which is Ōshima Nagisa: the Politics of Cinema.

Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship: a two year sabbatical (commencing 1 September, 2015) to complete the study: Oshima Nagisa: A Politics of Cinema.

In Politics, Porn and Protest: Japanese Avant-Garde Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s (2011), I argued that out of the background of war, occupation and the legacies of Japan’s post-defeat politics, there emerged in the 1960s a dissentient group of avant-garde filmmakers who created a counter-cinema that both challenged mainstream conservative domestic and international political policies, and dominant historical interpretations of Japan’s imperialist ambitions on the Asian mainland between 1931 and defeat in the Pacific War in 1945. Ōshima Nagisa (1932-2013) was central to this movement as not only did he experiment with very different conceptions of visual-style that challenged images and narratives dominant in the films of the mainstream ‘major’ studios, he was also a prolific writer and social critic publishing thirteen books and numerous journal articles. In this study, through an analysis of Ōshima’s writings in conjunction with his films and their critical reception in Japan, the aim is to reach an understanding of how Ōshima himself conceptualized and articulated his filmmaking practices and how these practices were informed by his political beliefs, and how his films impacted on and contributed to counter-cultural debates within Japan.


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Available for
  • Briefings
  • Special Study Programmes
  • Short Term Consultancy
  • Long Term Consultancy
Regional Expertise
  • East Asia
Country Expertise


Authored Books

Standish, Isolde (2011) Politics, Porn and Protest: Japanese Avant-Garde Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group.

Standish, Isolde (2005) A New History of Japanese Cinema: A Century of Narrative Film. New York: Continuum.

Standish, Isolde (2000) Myth and Masculinity in the Japanese Cinema: Towards a Political Reading of the Tragic Hero. London: Curzon.

Edited Books or Journal Volumes

Standish, Isolde, ed. (2014) Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema Volume 6 Number 1 May 2014. Oxford: Routledge.

Book Chapters

Standish, Isolde (2007) 'Transgression and the Politics of Porn. Oshima Nagisa's In the Realm of the Senses (1976).' In: Phillips, A. and Stringer, J., (eds.), Japanese Cinema: Texts and Contexts. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 217-228.

Standish, Isolde (1998) 'Akira: Postmodernism and Resistance.' In: Martinez, D.P., (ed.), The Worlds of Japanese Popular Culture: Gender Shifting Boundaries and Global Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 56-74. (Contemporary Japanese society)


Standish, Isolde (2015) 'The Revolutionary Triptych.' Kiju Yoshida: Love and Anarchism. pp. 29-43.

Standish, Isolde (2012) 'The Ephemeral as Transcultural Aesthetic: a Contextualization of the Early Films of Ozu Yasujiro.' Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, 4 (1). pp. 3-14.

Standish, Isolde (2011) 'The jidaigeki television series: myth, iteration and the domestication of the samurai hero.' Japan Forum, 23 (3). pp. 431-440.

Standish, Isolde (2010) 'Night and Fog in Japan: Fifty Years On.' Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema, 1 (2). pp. 143-155.

Standish, Isolde (2006) 'Film and Narrative in the Yakuza Genre.' Cinemaya, 1 (2). pp. 20-23.

Standish, Isolde (2005) 'Chushingura and the Japanese Studio System.' Japan Forum, 17 (1). pp. 69-86.

Standish, Isolde (2005) 'Mediators of Modernity: 'Photo-Interpreters' in Japanese Silent Cinema.' Oral Tradition, 20 (1). pp. 93-110.

Standish, Isolde (1993) 'Korean Cinema and the New Realism: Text and Context.' East-West Film Journal, 7 (2). pp. 54-80.

This list was generated on Fri Jul 21 03:19:14 2017 BST.